Perhaps my favorite place in the whole world is the South Island of New Zealand. If you live there, I SO envy you! What a beautiful place filled with nice people…I can’t say enough wonderful things about it. The only drawback is that, for most of us in the world, it is a little out of the way. No, make that VERY MUCH out of the way! Upon further thought however, perhaps that is what keeps it so lovely and friendly?
Anyhow, I was once fortunate enough to be able to visit New Zealand’s South Island. I believe it was in May and the leaves were turning color. There was a fall chill in the air…strange, since we had just left tree buds exploding with flowers and greenery emerging from the sun’s warmth – a promise of lazy summer days was near.
We had many remarkable adventures in southern New Zealand as we explored the glacial and fjord-laden, yet lush, west coast; viewed spectacular snowy mountainscapes of the central region; and enjoyed sheep (many, many, MANY sheep) grazing on peaceful green hills in the eastern portion.
One of the most interesting places that we visited was the Royal Albatross Centre in Dunedin. Before the visit, I really new very little about these amazing birds, except that according to old sailing lore, it was considered bad luck to see one. Wasn’t an albatross involved in Edgar Allan Poe‘s novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym?
- WEBCAM – I was quite excited to discover a live webcam from Dunedin’s Royal Albatross Center. I found this quite some time ago and have been meaning to write about it. At the moment, it seems to be showing just a general view of the colony since eggs are still incubating. However when there are chicks, it is a nest cam! Remember, that since it is live, you might find it is dark when you go to check it out due to the time difference. Keep going back, it is worth it.
- TRACKING – There are quite a few sites out there that show tracking results for albatross that have been fitted with satellite trackers:
Seaturtle.org (2004 data)
2008 Black-Footed Albatross “race”: Check out these amazing results for “the 2008 winner” named Oski. In the 64 days (s)he was tracked, (s)he traveled a curved path totaling 19,571 km (a straight line distance of 4,943 km) at an average rate of 305 km/day!
The Hawaii Study: Has a good teaching/classroom component.
- ADOPTION – If your family or class has the means (or wants to do a few fundraisers), you can even adopt your own albatross. The cost ($2,500 in 2008) covers the tracking tag and three months of data. You can choose the name of your bird and follow him/her in real time through online maps. Cool! The non-profit sponsor, Oikonos, will also send you a framed photo of your actual bird as well as a map of the completed three month journey.
- TEACHING – Good classroom tools here.
- VIDEOS – The Internet Bird Collection These videos are amazing!
If you do nothing else, watch (and show your kids) this gorgeous video of albatrosses soaring over the ocean, and “playing” in the wind. It is such a beautiful sight that it actually made me cry! Please watch it!
OK, now that you have been moved to tears by these beautiful birds, how about trying to save them? Here are some organizations that would like some help (fundraiser anyone?):
- GIVING – Organizations that aim to protect the albatross from long-line fishing and ocean trash:
I don’t homeschool, but if I did, I would somehow work in an albatross unit despite the fact that I live in Arizona! I hope that these resources will inspire somebody somewhere.
PHOTO CREDITS: Thank you Wikimedia Commons! For photo credits and licensing information, click on these links: Squabbling Albatrosses and Soaring Albatross.